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Sixteen sheriffs voice support for repeal of Oregon's sanctuary status

Clatsop County Jail

Sheriffs from 16 of Oregon's 36 counties put out a letter Monday saying they support ballot measure 105, which would repeal Oregon's sanctuary status.

The measure is set to appear on the state's November ballot.

The sheriffs said Oregon's current laws on immigration make citizens less safe and that the state must "restore respect for law."

Opponents including other law enforcement officers dispute their claims.

Since 1987, Oregon has outlawed state and local authorities from enforcing immigration law if a person's only crime is being in the country illegally.

"It's ludicrous," Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin told KATU on Monday. "It really restrains and constrains us."

Bergin and sheriffs from Gilliam, Harney, Morrow, Sherman, Umatilla, Malheur, Douglas, Curry, Coos, Klamath, Union, Grant, Wheeler, Lake and Deschutes counties endorsed the letter calling for an end to Oregon's sanctuary status.

"This doesn't mean that we're gonna be, you know, walking and looking for migrant farm workers or anything like that," Bergin said.

The letter also mentions the murder of Mollie Tibbetts, the Iowa college student who police said was killed by an undocumented immigrant.

"There's borders in place for a reason," Bergin explained. "There's laws put in place for a reason."

Bergin said repealing the sanctuary law would provide a big relief for county jails.

"It really would allow law enforcement to work with law enforcement," he said. "We should be able to say, 'Hey, feds, they're here illegally. Come and get 'em. We'll hold 'em until you're ready to come get 'em and you know, go out the door.'"

Opponents of the ballot measure including Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese, have said Oregon's sanctuary status helps protect everyone in part because it makes people more likely to testify in criminal cases.

"When they share that information we're able to hold people accountable for the criminal acts that they're conducting and make all of us safer," Reese told KATU last November. "We're not there to ask about immigration status. We're there to protect everybody."

Opponents say multiple studies show illegal immigration does not lead to an increase in violent crime.

Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett and District Attorney Kevin Barton have come out against the ballot measure as well, as have the district attorney of Deschutes County and former Hillsboro Police Chief Ron Louie.

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